Diane Ravitch on Education pt.2

February 27, 2017

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As for testing you could eliminate all the standardized testing and just say tell us your parents income and we’ll tell you where you fall on the spectrum. So we’re not helping children by labeling them.

Why don’t people change their minds, it’s the ideology of the free market.

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You know, we went through this period of saying democracy has now conquered the world and the free market has conquered the world and we should oppose all government bureaucracy. Well, that’s really saying that private is always better than public. And in a healthy society, you have a private sector that’s strong and you have a public sector that’s strong.So there’s a big move on and has been for a long time to make education a commodity. In higher education, the states have been shifting the burden of cost to students. And there are some countries that recognize that higher education should be free because education is a human right and we shouldn’t expect children and young people to pay for human rights.

Education should be a right

Why is education not a human right in this country? It should be, but the word education never appears in the U.S. Constitution. That’s number one. And number two is that a lot of people have the view that education somehow is a privilege and not a right. And I think that what we have to continue arguing for — and I think one day we’ll persuade people — is that education is the most important investment we can make in the future of this society.

And that means that this society, and particularly right now, we look around and Los Angeles and California is a great place to see this, we’re a multicultural society. We have to educate all children. We can’t just educate the privileged children. We can’t just educate those who are in the top half.
So that means that we have to see our society in the future is one where the investment in brain power, the investment in thinking skills, critical thinking skills, that has to be spread across the spectrum to all children.

But that’s controversial right now because what we’re going to see during these Trump years is a push to privatize public education, not a push to equalize education.

To my way of thinking, every child deserves to have a high-quality school within reach of them. They shouldn’t have to say, well, we’re going to close your neighborhood school and there’s a good school an hour away, but you don’t have transportation to get there. That’s no choice at all.

All you need to know about Israeli justice

February 24, 2017

Who Needs The Hague When You Have Israeli Army Justice? writes (Feb.23) the resident Israeli  prophet Gideon Levy in Haaretz.  In a newspaper read by 4% of israelis, Levy is the quintessential Jew of Conscience.

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There’s nothing more Israeli than this court that gives a soldier, who killed a Palestinian in cold blood, a sentence fit for a bicycle thief.

More national than Habima Theater, more popular than the popular theater of the late Avraham Deshe (Pashanel), more representative than the Knesset and more indicative than the polls — let’s welcome the Israel Defense Forces Theater, sitting as a military court. It’s the most authentic reflection of society, the country’s real High Court of Justice.

It’s an epic production with dozens of extras; the reviews are flattering, and the audience goes wild. The costumes (IDF uniforms) are nothing special, and neither are the scenery, lighting and makeup – “absentee” property in Jaffa or a barracks in the Kirya (army headquarters), neon lights and metal benches. But the play is excellent – current and relevant, representative and indicative – and the ending is always predictable.

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There’s nothing more Israeli than this court, and nothing more authentic than its sentence in the case of soldier Elor Azaria. Once again, we have the cloak of self-righteousness, once again the deceit, once again the façade of due process, with a defense, a prosecution and summations. Once again, it’s the best show in town, and once again, the crying injustice is present without our feeling it, just the way Israelis like it.

What Israelis like most is to eat their cake and have it, too, and who knows better than the military court how to supply the goods? A rousing verdict about “the value of the sanctity of life,” and a sentence fit for a bicycle thief.

We don’t need The Hague; we have the Kirya. The fact is that a soldier who killed – not to say murdered – an already dying Palestinian in cold blood, with malice aforethought, was put on trial, and even punished. Where else in the world can you find such things? In America? In Europe? The most moral army in the world, assuredly the most moral. Kudos to the IDF and its justice system.

This is how most Israelis would like to see their judges: talking loftily about justice and equality – on condition that they apply to Jews only. Talking about the sanctity of life – but calculating the value of a Palestinian’s life as less than that of an (Israeli) dog. That’s exactly what the Azaria verdict gave them.

Azaria left the court as a national hero, in a country where everyone who kills an Arab is considered a hero and there are almost no heroes who didn’t kill Arabs. The court once again told Israelis what they most wanted to hear: Palestinian lives are dirt cheap; they’re on end-of-season sale.

This is the same court that has judged hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with severity and cruelty over the decades of the occupation. With more and more judges (and prosecutors) being settlers, devotees of international law and equality before the law, this military court, which sits in the occupied territories, is Israel’s most refined perpetrator of apartheid. There, at the Ofer army base and the Etzion lockup, far from watching eyes, there’s one law for Jews and another for Arabs, with no hemming and hawing.

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In this, too, the court reflects society, far more than the Supreme Court in Jerusalem does. A Palestinian Azaria would of course have been sentenced to life in prison in a speedy trial, without “his family’s distress,” “an outstanding soldier,” “a clean record” and “special circumstances,” without asking what went through his mind or what had happened in his life. You killed a Jew? You tried to “spill Jewish blood”? There’s only one sentence.

This institution also knows how to richly reward and protect IDF soldiers and officers, just as the people want it to do and as their commanders expect it to do, and to turn its trials into perversions of justice. Only in this court could a senior officer like Ofek Buchris, who was charged with rape and sodomy, emerge with the draconian sentence of being demoted by one rank. That’s how cruelly the court treated him.

Just like the IDF Orchestra isn’t an orchestra and Army Radio isn’t a media outlet, this court is not a court. But it is even more corrupting than the first two examples: It sends its demobilized metastases into the civilian justice system.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit came up through this rotten environment, and so did more than a few judges, including some on the Supreme Court, who are convinced that they were doing justice all those years. They carry with them the glorious legal traditions of the prefab buildings at Ofer, and those traditions remain etched in them forever.

Israel fails in “rebranding”

February 23, 2017

What a bust!

Israel is now tied with North Korea as the pariah nation par excellent. For years now it has been attempting to rebrand itself as a tourist mecca. As a frequent visitor, it is indeed a fabulously interesting place—if you can look beyond a 50 year occupation and the daily humiliation of another people.

A week in the West Bank would cure anybody, even a rabid tribalist of total support. Forget a trip to Gaza the only democracy in the Middle East will not allow you to visit and see what 3 brutal killing rampages has done there in the last decade.

The state has tried desperately to “pinkwash” over the ugly facts by talking about the liberal charms of Tel Aviv (never Jerusalem, too many Muslims with a highly conservative ethos). So they promote the country as a haven for gays. See how liberal we are !

Also a failed attempt to “greenwash” the awful ecological mess Israel has created there. The settlements have been dumping untreated waste directly into a sewage canal that runs through the occupied West Bank, affecting Palestinian villages along its banks.The toxic chemical waste has for years been dumped on agricultural land, with villagers reporting a rash of skin diseases and respiratory problems.

Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste, into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste management sites,” according to Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor. The Israeli government has banned plans by the Palestinian Authority to build pipes and pumps to treat and divert wastewater away from the affected villages.

As part of its greenwashing Israel crows about its “reforestation”—such as Canada Park—built over destroyed Palestinian villages.

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All in all, the rebranding has been a bust and now the latest failed venture. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights reports the following:

With the Academy Awards fast approaching this Sunday, it’s been a full year since Israel offered all-expenses-paid trips to 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock and 25 top nominees including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Mark Rylance, and Cate Blanchett. The Israeli tourism ministry organized the trip with hopes that the superstars would use their platforms to show Israel in a positive light, countering worldwide outrage over Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

So what happened? It was an utter failure. One year later, it appears that not a single star visited Israel. Last night, the AFP wire service ran this extraordinary headline appearing in many media outlets, “Israel invited 26 Oscar stars to visit. So far none has.”

Bringing celebrities to Israel has long been part of a “Brand Israel” strategy to improve the country’s image abroad. As Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin explained last year, “These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting. Their visit will have enormous resonance among millions of fans and followers, including social media.” But as of this week, the Israeli tourism ministry would not confirm any visits by the stars, and there was no evidence of trips on social media.

It seems that the harder Israel tries to improve its image, the worse it fails. Yesterday’s news comes on the heels of former Super Bowl star Michael Bennett and several other NFL stars also choosing to #SkipTheTrip that they were offered by Israel.

Far from achieving their desired effect, these propaganda trips give us an opportunity to create broader awareness about the Israeli government’s brutal policies and attempts to whitewash them. While not every celebrity will turn down such offers, our cultural boycott campaigns are ensuring that every celebrity facing the choice must now consider the Israeli government’s cynical motivations and the impact on Palestinian communities struggling to survive.

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That’s why days after the Oscars trips were announced last February, the US Campaign helped organize a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli, European, and U.S. organizations to launch a #SkipTheTrip campaign including a petition to the stars, individual letters to actors, and a comprehensive social media strategy. The dynamic campaign included creative memes, a comical video, and a satirical invitation from the legendary Brian Eno highlighting the types of “holiday” experiences one could have visiting Palestine like being interrogated, tear-gassed, beaten, and shot at.

One should not ever lose hope about the many Jews of conscience within and without Israel who for years have seen through the blatant propaganda or hasbara.

It was the veteran Israeli diplomat to West Germany Yohanan Meroz (d. 2006) who coined the expression “hasbarable.” Some things you simply can not spin and the shocking brutalization of a civilian population is one of them.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy gave voice to this truism in June 2011: “Hasbara will not overcome the unequivocal fact that Israel has been an occupying power for more than four decades. No propaganda can persuade people of good conscience that we’re right as long as millions of Palestinians are living without rights.”

Diane Ravitch and Charter schools pt 1

February 22, 2017

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Diane Ravitch was Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991-93 under President George H.W. Bush and member of the National Assessment Governing Board under President Bill Clinton. Born in Texas, she attended Houston public schools as well as Wellesley College and Columbia University. She’s now president of The Network For Public Education and Research Professor of Education at New York University. Her most recent text, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, was an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the charter school movement that is draining high-performing students and funding from our public schools.

Ravitch was invited by PBS host Tavis Smiley to think out loud about the new billionaire American Secretary of Education,Betsy DeVos who has spent her fortune on trashing public schools and promting charter schools.

Ravitch: She does not believe in public education. She has spent millions of dollars funding candidates who are opposed to public education. She has funded anti-public education people all over the country. She’s had huge influence in Michigan. Michigan is now not only an all-choice state, they don’t have vouchers.

But she tried to promote a referendum to put vouchers into the State Constitution and it was turned down overwhelmingly, 69 to 31. So she tried and failed on vouchers, but still there are hundreds of charter schools. Michigan is the only state in the country where 80% of the charters operate for profit and that’s the way she likes it.

Tavis: Why would an otherwise reasonable senator, no matter what party you were in, put someone at the top of the hierarchy who doesn’t believe in the system they’re overseeing?

Ravitch: They didn’t want to disappoint Trump, but, secondly, she and her family are among the biggest donors to Republican politicians in the country. She and her family have given about $50,000 each to half the Republican members of the Senate. And several of the people on the committee that approved her had received $50,000 to $60,000 each from the DeVos family.

So you’re talking about people who are masters of dark money and masters of being Republican contributors, and they were not going to let her down.

Ravitch’s history is interesting.

I was invited to join the first Bush administration as Assistant Secretary in charge of research and counselor to the Secretary, the Secretary then being Lamar Alexander who was from Tennessee, and I have great respect for Lamar.I was involved in very right wing think tanks at Hoover Institution and two others.

I was in favor of testing. I was in favor of school choice. I supported the original idea of charters. But about 2005, 2006, after No Child Left Behind had been in effect for half a decade, I began to look at the results and say this is not working. It’s not helping kids. It’s turning schools into testing factories.

I began to hear documented case after case where charter schools were failing and one of the think tanks I was on was sponsoring charter schools in Ohio. Every single one of them was a failing school, and I said, “But this isn’t what I expected. So I began writing critically about what was going on and then I decided I would write a book about what I had learned. And I wrote a book in 2010 called “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education”.

I cut my ties with all the think tanks. I found myself for a time kind of out on a limb all by myself and then I discovered I had a lot of new friends. And I felt very comfortable in my skin because if not for public schools, I wouldn’t be here.

My family — my mother was an immigrant from Moldova. The proudest thing she ever owned was her high school diploma from the Houston public schools. I was one of eight children. We all went to public schools. I’m not sure what the world would have been like for us had we had the kind of system that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos want.

The Pope, Trump and capitalism

February 21, 2017

On Friday Feb 17 Pope Francis spoke to a meeting of popular movements in California.His encouraging words need to be unpacked.

The direction taken beyond this historic turning point, the ways in which the worsening crisis gets resolved, will depend on people’s involvement and participation and largely on yourselves, the popular movements. Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates, the wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. I know you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our sister Mother Earth, and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice,” he wrote.
Yes , taking to the streets is a good, a necessary mobilization Francis says.

Is he referring to the fake populism of Trump. Doubtlessly.

Matthew Fox:

We all have to wake up. Young people have to get away from their addictions to the social media, and realize that this is serious business, politics and life itself. And we’ve got to stand up and be counted.

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How can people duped by Trump really believe the billionaire has their interests at heart? Are they too wounded and betrayed by the Democratic Party to fall for the narcissist?Many are.

Capitalism with its power to confuse people, divert their energies, accept the status quo of dramatic inequality is the real enemy here.
Pope Francis:

 
The economic system that has the god of money at its center, that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries, that to a criminal degree, have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way, with the pretense of innocence, under the guise of what is politically correct, or ideologically fashionable. One looks at those who suffer, without touching them.

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Where are the Catholics in this equation? 52% of US Catholics fell for Trump.

 
The leadership is nowhere. It has turned inward, placed the church not the kingdom at the center of their lives. The right wing JP ll/Ratzinger bishops have betrayed the gospel and short circuited the renovation movement of Vatican ll. This has left a huge hole in the institution. Many progressives have left disgusted by the right wing turn and the ecclesial coverup of the pedophilia scandal.

Add to this the local church is operating out of a charity not a justice model, presided over by many foreign born priests who do not bring a progressive theology to bear on issues of social justice, ecology and gross inequality. This is the dilemma of many good priests who have to deal with this situation. many of their allies have left the church so they battle on. God bless them! Meanwhile the Pope is left to fend off attacks from within by disgruntled appointees of the last two reactionary papacies.

Young Jews blow the shofar on Friedman

February 19, 2017

More Jews of Conscience stepped up to reject Triump hack, David Friedman as ambassador to Israel. Members of IFNot Now literally blew the shofar on this appalling nominee, an insult to international justice and progressive Judaism.Bravo and brava!

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The following article from Haaretz shows the great gulf between young Jews and the worn out establishment

David Friedman’s nomination represents the moral failure of the Jewish communal establishment. Like Trump, Friedman traffics in hate. He has demeaned liberal Jews on multiple occasions. He denies the existence of the Palestinian people. He has funded the building of settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. His vision for the region is a single, undemocratic state that would make the occupation of the West Bank, a daily nightmare for those who live under it, permanent. And with both Trump and Netanyahu in office, Friedman’s dangerous vision, once a far-right fringe idea, could become a reality.

During their meeting on February 15, Trump and Netanyahu showed that they are two sides of the same coin. Both have ignored the fear that U.S. Jews feel in the face of rising anti-Semitism and bigotry at home, much of which comes from Trump’s own supporters. Both use racist, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and encourage alliances with some of the most xenophobic and anti-democratic forces in their respective countries. Both have demonstrated that they intend to further entrench the occupation, which will only guarantee more violence and suffering for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The American Jewish establishment has met all of this with silence. AIPAC has neither denounced the hateful statements made by Trump and his surrogates, nor condemned Friedman’s undemocratic one-state solution. The major Jewish organizations have said nothing about the danger posed by the proposal to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. With Israeli and Palestinian lives at stake and racist violence on the rise in the U.S., Jewish communal leaders have demonstrated a striking absence of moral integrity.

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We blew the shofar to interrupt David Friedman’s hearing because we are in a moment of crisis. We were protesting with IfNotNow, a grassroots movement of young Jews calling for an end to our community’s support of Israel’s occupation. By interrupting Friedman’s hearing, we showed Trump, Netanyahu, and the Jewish establishment that we will take action and risk arrest if necessary to end our community’s support for the occupation and stand up against racism and bigotry in all of its forms. We will be the Jewish communal leaders that the established organizations have failed to be. IfNotNow Interrupts David Friedman’s Confirmation Hearing .We are helping to lead the #JewishResistance, standing up for ourselves and for others against the threats posed by the Trump and Netanyahu administrations. Our name is based on Rabbi Hillel’s three questions: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” As, Jews, we have seen the normalization of racism and bigotry before.

We were taught by our community that our responsibility was to never again let state-sponsored hatred become policy. And yet in Israel and the U.S., violence against Arabs, immigrants, and other marginalized people is rapidly becoming the norm. So, next month, we will bring the #JewishResistance to the AIPAC Policy Conference. No organization, and no event, symbolizes the Jewish establishment’s abandonment of the values we hold dear – justice, peace, democracy, and equality – more than the Policy Conference. Last year, when Trump spoke there, AIPAC legitimized and applauded his hateful views. This year, when Trump speaks there as president, thousands of us will be there with IfNotNow to protest.

For American Jews, the sides have never been clearer. Will you stand on the side of Trump, Friedman, and AIPAC? Or will you stand with us?

Lila Weintraub is an organizer with IfNotNow D.C. She grew up in Maryland, where she was involved with the Jewish youth movement Habonim Dror from a young age. Lila attended McGill University from 2011-2015 and has recently returned and made her home in Washington D.C. Isaac Flegel-Mishlove is an organizer with IfNotNow D.C. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Isaac moved to Washington, D.C. in 2011 where he attended the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Isaac is now deeply involved with Jewish social justice work in the area. Tom Corcoran is an organizer with IfNotNow N.Y.C. After growing up in Los Angeles, he moved to New York in 2010. Tom is deeply involved in anti-occupation and anti-racist activism, digital organizing and community work in New York.

Khalidi makes sense

February 18, 2017

Rashid Khalidi  born in New York city, is a history professor at Columbia University.

This appeared in the Guardian.

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I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.” With these words at a joint press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump may have finally dispelled the already receding mirage of any just solution.
Trump was clearly seeking to please his guest, spurred by the zealots in his government, four of whom, Public Safety Minister Gilad Erdan, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Sports Minister Miri Regev, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovley, just publicly came out against creation of a Palestinian state.
For decades, Israeli governments, pursuing the colonization of the entirety of “Eretz Israel,” have systematically destroyed the prerequisites for a solution involving a contiguous, sustainable, sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Nevertheless, the myth that a real Palestinian state is on offer, and that there actually is a genuine “peace process,” endures as one of the greatest examples of magical thinking in modern times.

That myth has been crucial for the continuation of Israel’s permanent occupation and unending colonization of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, shielding it from any serious international pressure.
The final interment of the already moribund “two-state solution” would force all concerned to face what is obvious to any honest observer. For decades, an imposed reality of one-state – the only sovereign entity enjoying total security control – has existed between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. This one state is Israel. Irrespective of the label one uses for it, this is the only outcome that this Israeli government will accept, whatever subaltern, or helot, or “autonomous” status it deigns to allow the Palestinians.

Netanyahu did not mince words while standing next to Trump. He said that in any peace agreement “Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.” He has long stated that he would only allow the Palestinians a “state minus;” that most Israeli settlements must remain in place; that all of Jerusalem belongs to Israel alone; and that Israel must keep 50-60% of the West Bank including the fertile Jordan River Valley.

It matters little whether this travesty is called a one-state or a two-state “solution,” or whether the Palestinians get the right to fly a flag over such a pitiful Bantustan.
The Trump-Netanyahu press conference, and the Senate confirmation hearings for David Friedman as ambassador-designate to Israel, give us a very clear picture of how much the Israel-United States relationship has changed since January 20, 2017.

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American presidents since Clinton have insisted on a Palestinian state, have condemned settlement expansion, and have tried to rein in the most egregious excesses of the Israeli government, while financing and defending at the UN the very activities they supposedly opposed. These feeble positions are now eroding.

 

Having just cast doubt on the two state solution, Trump stood by complaisantly while Netanyahu laid out preconditions universally recognized as deal-breakers for the Palestinians: besides permanent Israeli control of their “state,” he demanded recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, a designation that no other country is required to accept, and something Israeli itself has not formally adopted. Similarly, while Trump asked Israel to “hold back on settlements a little bit,” his administration has not responded to the massive settlement expansion announced by the Israeli government in recent weeks.

 

In Friedman’s prepared testimony, clearly scripted by Trump administration handlers, he aligned himself closely with the largely false claims made the previous day by Netanyahu: that the Palestinians have refused to recognize Israel, or to renounce terrorism, and that they pay killers of Israelis. In fact, the PLO recognized Israel and renounced violence decades ago.

The families of the 35,000 Palestinians killed by Israel since 1967 do receive compensation, including some who have engaged in violence against Israel and its military occupation, but that very total, many times larger than the number of Israeli soldiers, settlers and civilians killed, helps to explain the violence. This is the cost of an occupation whose very existence Netanyahu and Friedman deny.

As Netanyahu put it while standing alongside Trump: “Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea. This is our ancestral homeland. Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.” This is perfectly in line with the views of Friedman, who has raised millions of dollars in tax-free donations to settlements built on stolen Palestinian private property in “Judea.” Clearly, the Trump administration has moved the goalposts on Palestine, tilting even further in the direction of the most extreme government in Israel’s history.
In this brave new world, it is more urgent than ever for the Palestinians to overcome their crippling internal divisions, reject the pressures of the external powers that have helped to keep their national movement fragmented, and produce a clear strategy for a future of complete equality between Palestinians and Israelis. Perhaps Trump has provided the opportunity for them to lay out what a truly just and equal one-state, or binational, or confederal, or two-state solution would look like.

In any case, only a complete break with the failed strategies of the feeble leaderships in Ramallah and Gaza can provide a genuine alternative to the grotesque future of unending dispossession and oppression that Trump and Netanyahu envision for them.

Rabbis, cantors and survivors

February 15, 2017

A bankruptcy lawyer who supports illegal settlements as ambassador to Israel? Many in the Jewish community see the folly of such a stunningly, obtuse choice.

An open kletter from over 600.

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We are writing today as rabbis and cantors asking President Trump to withdrawthe nomination of David Friedman to be the United States Ambassador to the State of Israel.

Failing that, we implore the US Senate not to confirm him.In this letter, we will address concerns around his denigration of American Jews who believe differently from him and his policy positions that we believe run contrary to the interests of the United States and Israel.

The rabbis of the Talmud are adamant that we are to speak to and about other people — particularly those with whom we disagree — with love and respect. We are taught that shaming a person is tantamount to shedding their blood (BabaMetzia 58b). Yet Mr. Friedman seems to have no qualms about insulting people with whom he disagrees

Mr. Friedman has repeatedly compared members of the Jewish community whose views on Israel differ from his own to “kapos,” who were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust. He called members of J Street,a pro-Israel organization that wants to see peace between Israelis andPalestinians, “worse than kapos.” He has even questioned whether its more than180,000 supporters are really Jews — as if he has the right to decide such a weighty matter.

This is the very antithesis of the diplomatic behavior Americans expect from their ambassadors.

An ambassador is charged with representing our entire nation. It is historicallyperverse and wildly insulting to characterize Jewish advocates for peace,including many of the signers of this letter, as no better than Nazi collaboratorsplotting to destroy the Jewish people.

If Mr. Friedman cannot responsibly understand history, he cannot responsiblyshape the future.The situation in and around Israel is volatile. Mr. Friedman’s inflammatorycomments about Jews, Palestinians and Muslims and the peace process itself areprecisely the type of comments that can ignite further conflict and drive deeper wedges between parties.

While we believe the above should be enough to disqualify Mr. Friedman, wehave grave policy concerns as well. Mr. Friedman vocally supports the expansionof Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which American presidents since Johnson have seen as an obstacle to peace

Moreover, Mr. Friedman opposes the two-state solution, which has been a policy cornerstone for Republican and Democratic administrations for the past quarter century. We are very concerned that rather than try to represent the US as an advocate for peace, Mr. Friedman will seek to mold American policy in line with his extreme ideology.

Israel Hayom–again

February 15, 2017

Jonathan Cook the intrepid blogger from Nazareth shone his light in his last column on the poor excuse for a newspaper Israel Hayom, a propaganda sheet for Netanyahu.

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Most Israeli politicians rely on overseas Jewish funders. Netanyahu won his Likud party’s primaries in 2014 exclusively with the help of foreign donors, all but one of them American.

Personifying this unhealthy external interference in Israeli politics is Sheldon Adelson, the U.S. casino magnate who is Netanyahu’s main patron. Adelson has done much more than channel donations to Netanyahu’s campaign coffers. He created a newspaper to get Netanyahu elected and keep him in office

The free daily Israel Hayom, founded 10 years ago, is now the biggest-circulation paper in Israel and is known locally as Bibi-ton, or Bibi’s newspaper, in reference to Netanyahu’s nickname. A recent investigation by Haaretz found that Adelson had sunk an astronomic sum into Israel Hayom – some $190 million in its first seven years alone – to keep it afloat.

At the same time, Adelson has been sponsoring Republican politicians, including the new occupant of the White House, Donald Trump, to ensure he has an outsize influence in the U.S. as well. Trump’s sudden conversion to Netanyahu’s pro-settlement agenda coincided with his need for Adelson’s support in the presidential campaign.

The American Cassandra

February 13, 2017

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In many ways writer Chris Hedges up until now is the American Cassandra.
In Greek mythology Apollo gave Cassandra the power of prophecy—but when she refused him, Apollo made sure even though she spoke truth—nobody would believe her.

His latest article on Truthdig is worth a read.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/american_psychosis_20170129

The lies fly out of the White House like flocks of pigeons: Donald Trump’s election victory was a landslide. He had the largest inauguration crowds in American history. Three million to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally. Climate change is a hoax. Vaccines cause autism. Immigrants are carriers of “[t]remendous infectious disease.” The election was rigged—until it wasn’t. We don’t know “who really knocked down” the World Trade Center. Torture works. Mexico will pay for the wall. Conspiracy theories are fact. Scientific facts are conspiracies. America will be great again.
Our new president, a 70-year-old with orange-tinted skin and hair that Penn Jillette has likened to “cotton candy made of piss,” is, as Trump often reminds us, “very good looking.” He has almost no intellectual accomplishments—he knows little of history, politics, law, philosophy, art or governance—but insists “[m]y IQ is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” And the mediocrities and half-wits he has installed in his Cabinet have “by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.”
It is an avalanche of absurdities.

This mendacity would be easier to repulse if the problem was solely embodied in Trump. But even in the face of a rising despotism, the Democratic Party refuses to denounce the corporate forces that eviscerated our democracy and impoverished the country. The neoliberal Trump demonizes Muslims, undocumented workers and the media. The neoliberal Democratic Party demonizes Vladimir Putin and FBI Director James Comey. No one speaks about the destructive force of corporate power. The warring elites pit alternative facts against alternative facts. All engage in demagoguery. We will, I expect, be condemned to despotism by the venality of Trump and the cowardice and dishonesty of the liberal class.

Trump and those around him have a deep hatred for what they cannot understand. They silence anyone who thinks independently. They elevate pseudo-intellectuals who adhere to their bizarre script. They cannot cope with complexity, nuance or the unpredictable. Individual initiative is a mortal threat. The order for some employees of several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research service, the National Park Service and the Department of Health and Human Services, to restrict or cease communication with the press or members of Congress, along with the attempt to impose 10-year felony convictions on six reporters who covered the inauguration protests, signals the beginning of a campaign to marginalize reality and promote fantasy. Facts depend solely on those who have the power to create them. The goal of the Trump administration is to create an artificial consistency that conforms to its warped perception of the world.